November 4, 2002
Ancient Harmony July 27th, 2002, Post-Phil and Friends Show at the Brandy House in Atlanta
What a sweltering day and night of music. Beginning at 3pm with Dickey Betts, followed by Ratdog, and Phil and Friends closed out an exciting day and night of music at Lakewood. For some that's where the night ended, for about 500 or so die hard music lovers though, that was time to set their sights on Ancient Harmony at the Brandy House. Under normal conditions this would have tested the limits of human endurance, but with the extreme heat of the day that did not even seem to receed even when the sun did, this was a testament of Harmonite fan devotion. Some had even come from as far away as Raleigh and Charleston and opted not to attend the festivities at Lakewood as the triple billing while chalked full of talent was an expensive ticket. I have to admit I was a little envious of their ability to go all out at Harmony when my own energy reserves were vastly depleted. My mind was thoroughly pleased though even as my body might have been begging for mercy. How could it not have been with the likes of the talented former AH percussionist Gaurav from Captain Soularcat joining AH for the entire show. For those unfamiliar with Gaurav's works, here's a brief background from the band's website, soularcat.com:
"Gaurav Malhotra has made a name for himself playing percussion around Atlanta and the Southeast. He has jammed with Blueground Undergrass, Futureman, Stained Souls, Ekoostic Hookah, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and Widespread Panic. He has recently revisited a past musical history with Ancient Harmony, and has worked with Count M'Butu for several years, and joined him on the stage on numerous occasions."
When we arrived at the Brandy House and saw Gaurav's percussion kit setup alongside Chad's, we knew we were in for a smoker. The set began with a 13:20 completely improvised jam that blended beautifully into Mating Drive. Steve Patton led in on bass with the signature bass line and set the tempo for an upbeat version of this instrumental masterpiece. With the crowd continuing to gather and gather their senses after an already long day of music, the stage was set for the other surprise guest. Benji Shanks of Captain Soularcat, a maestro on the slide guitar brought his talents on stage and joined the other musicians for a rousing rendition of the AH original So Glad to See You. He remained onstage for a 25 minute jammed out version of Shakedown Street that was a more than fitting tribute to the legends who had burned down Atlanta that afternoon. Skywater, an old AH classic builds slowly from beautiful melodies gradually to an epic jam that soared to new peaks and then rests gently down like a feather falling slowly from the air. Three more AH originals followed, Floodin Blues sung by keyboardist Hal Month, Self Destruction written and sung by drummer Chad Arndt, and the melodic and spacey saga of the Pendulum sung by guitarist Shell Stamps. At this point Benji Shanks re-enters and the crowds anticipation builds. The band which was leading back out of Pendulum goes on without skipping a beat and jumps right into a monster 30+ minute version of the AH classic I Want You caught the audience tapers off guard which led to a cut in the tapes right at the 2 hour mark. Fortunately their was a soundboard source available as well from taper Scot Levan who himself does .shn encodings so no DAE was neccesary to put together a complete HQ combined source for the show. The soundboard source sounded excellent, but as a whole lacked the energy of the crowd participation which was such a vital part of this packed house of pleased fans. It was also when compared to the audience recording seemingly a little bass heavy in relation to the true sound in the room. The soundboard source was used in its entirety for I Want You. It worked out very well considering I Want You is the one song that I much prefer the soundboard source for as the level problems which affected the sbd recording early on had been ironed out by this point to perfection. The wealth of bass in the soundboard recording was welcome as among many components of this lengthy masterpiece is an extended bass solo. Steve did not disappoint when his turn came to tear it up, ripping off a monster solo before giving way to a brief but action packed drum segment with Gaurav and Chad showing off their considerable individual talents as well as their cohesiveness and ability to collaborate as a combined force. At this point the show which began sometime after midnight had rocked nearly every last bit of energy out of the beleagured music fans who were in for the long haul after the triple billing at Lakewood. Sensing this, rather than letting us off easy, AH and friends went in for the kill, treating us to a 45-minute encore that was the buzz in Harmonyland for weeks to follow. Memory is one of AH's finest long originals, composed of many complex parts that make it more of a rock opera than a single serving. When fifteen minutes in Franklin's Tower came crashing down, the final tribute to the events of the day, the crowd went nuts. As it rocked to mind-blowing proportions with the help of Benji and Gaurav for fifteen minutes, many of the uninitiated thought they had finally reached the end of their marathon music day. However Memory had left unfinished, and therefore had to come back to finish off the crowd. The final jammed out chords of Franklin's dropped off like a roller coaster and transitioned into the slow middle section of Memory with it's beautiful melodies. Gradually they brought it back up like a Phoenix rising from the ashes then comes to an abrupt stop. A suttle pause before my favorite part of the song. Hal leads in on the piano and Shell follows in this call and response of upbeat, catchy riffs that make Memory a signature AH tune. Twelve minutes of sheer brilliance brought and end to the long day and night of festivities that came again and again relentlessly like tidal waves before finally resting it's weary but satisfied passengers upon the shore.